Last November I had the wonderful opportunity to visit The Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, Georgia! I'm really excited to share some of the things I learned and a few of the experiences I had while I was there. It was truly an experience that has changed the way I view my role as an educator!
First, let me give you a little background. I first heard about Ron Clark years ago when I read his book End of Molasses Classes back in 2011. This book made me fall immediately in love with him and I knew I wanted to hear more about his out-of-the-box teaching ideas. I went on to learn more about him by watching some of his interviews with Oprah and some of the Youtube videos from RCA. I was hooked! Since that time, I've read all his books and even got to see him give the keynote address at the SDE Conference in Vegas in 2013. To say I was excited about my chance to visit the academy was an understatement. I was absolutely thrilled when I realized I would have the chance to go to RCA!
This past November I got to travel to Atlanta with my wonderful principal and a few of the teachers at my school to attend a two day visitation at the famous Ron Clark Academy. I'm lucky to teach at a school where the administration believes in the "RCA magic" and tries to replicate it at our school. This is the second group of teachers that my school has sent and we have already incorporated a lot of the educational strategies modeled after RCA.
Having read all of Ron Clark's books, I kind of felt like I knew what was in store for me during my visit. I knew it would be a huge learning experience, and I knew it would be "life-changing" (as all educators who go to RCA say it is), but to be honest, I really was not prepared for the magic that I was able to witness over my two day visit. It turned out to be so much more than I ever imagined.
Besides going with my principal and school friends, I was able to share this experience with some of my best blogging buddies as well. I knew most of these girls already from Blog Hoppin, and was happy to make a few new blogging friends too. From left to right, we have Krista from Creative Clips, Crystal from The Balanced Teacher, Courtney from Ramona Recommends, Katie from Little Kinder Warriors, me, Stephanie from Falling Into First, and Cheryl from Primary Graffiti. I loved being able to see these girls and share this experience with them!
Here are a few of the highlights from my visit:
- When we first gathered outside the gates of RCA we were gathered by a few students who were passing out name tags. These students were full of energy and very articulate. They looked us right in the eyes, gave us firm handshakes, and engaged us in conversation. Before I had even stepped foot in the school, I already had tears in my eyes thinking about ways I wanted to help my own students gain this level of confidence and social skills.
- We were first taken to the library where there was a huge dance party complete with a giant trampoline! The students were mingling and making everyone feel welcomed and excited. It was unreal. Such a fun way to start our visit at RCA!
- Next we were taken to the school and we gathered in the front area. Ron hopped up on the ledge and gave us a welcome speech. One of the things that stood out to me that he said was, "You don't have to go back home and do every thing you see here today. But you've got to do something." I loved that we didn't have to feel overwhelmed with everything we were seeing and experiencing. If we could do at least one new thing we when got home, the whole visit would be a success.
- In Kim Beaden's session she bore her heart to us and of course made us all cry. It was a combination of beautiful and heartwarming stories that helped to inspire every single teacher in the room. She mentioned that in college we are taught the science of teaching. She said that we need to learn to also focus on the art of teaching. I think that is so true! Teaching is a beautiful and complicated process. We need to think outside of the box and truly engage our students in all we teach them.
- Mr. Fleming, the philosophy professor, said something that has really stuck with me. He said, "We've not trained kids how to think, we've trained them how to recall answers." He later went on to say, "We are the reason kids don't love learning." This made me reflect on my own teaching and try to think of ways to make learning more meaningful and engaging for my own students.
- During lunch we got to eat with a group of students who asked us questions and told us more about their school. At one point, we asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up. I got tears in my eyes as they shared their hopes and dreams of the future. When one sweet boy told us he wanted to become the President of the United States some day, I really believed that he has the potential to achieve that dream some day. These students are remarkable! They have big dreams for their future and I know they are each on a path that will lead them closer to their goals. I love how RCA prepares these students for a lifetime of success.
I was so excited to become Slide Certified! If you've ever heard much about RCA before, you would know that every educator that comes for a visitation gets to become "slide certified". It represents taking our own path in education and thinking of new and different ways to reach our students. At the end of the slide, you are greeted with the entire student body of kids cheering and dancing. What a way to end our first day of training!
Here is a picture of us with Hope King (who blogs at Elementary Shenanigans). She is one of the talented teachers at the Ron Clark Academy and she is also one of my best blogging friends! We got the pleasure of watching her teach a 5th grade science lesson and we also got to attend her teaching workshop. It was really great to see what an incredible teacher she is. During her science lesson, her students performed a song they had learned about parts of a cell and I was completely amazed at the depth of knowledge these students showed!
I absolutely love the House System at RCA. They have divided their student body into 4 houses, very similar to the houses of Harry Potter. All students have a place to belong and they all work together to earn house points. On the second day of our visit we got to participate in the house cheers and it was truly incredible. The passion and energy at the academy is out of this world!
This picture sums up our visit. It was exciting, mind-blowing, and truly an experience I will never forget. Thank you Mr. Clark for an unforgettable experience that has helped me to become a better educator and will help me to always strive to do more for my students. I walked away feeling inspired, energized, and on fire to return to my school and do amazing work on behalf of all my students!
I would love to share part of the RCA magic with some of our readers and want to give away a copy of Ron Clark's newest book Move Your Bus. Enter using the Rafflecopter below: